“A survey of university students by the Human Rights Commission has found more than half of respondents were sexually harassed on at least one occasion last year.”(In 2016, Australia) – ABC News, 1st Aug 2017
I know many of you have heard countless personal stories of sexual harassment since the Harvey Weinstein allegations were published last year. Its a topic I hope none of you have tuned out from reading because the nature of how often women are treated inappropriately is a genuine reality. As women we are warned constantly through cautionary tales and advice that alters our everyday behaviour. The more we talk about it, the more power we have in standing up to disgusting vile behaviour that should never have occurred. Maybe some incidents are prevented this way because more men will be fearful, having the knowledge that they can no longer get away with it so easily.
At one point when I was a child, I often had dreams of being a “star” through playing music or acting (Not that I could act). It was just this glamourised life that was easy to aspire to. After telling my mother, she told me I didn’t want that, because these were the industries that you would have to sleep with directors to get roles. While I did believe this was something a few women did, somehow I had the idea that this was a choice and through talent combined with determination I would reach that without having to sleep with one sleazy director… I’m not in such industry but clearly I had undercounted the number of incidences and simplified the unfortunate reality of such industries that my mother was somewhat right about all along.
When I was 16, I worked in fast food, standing behind the till and depending how many people were working at the front and how busy it was, it could be quite limited in space. It would be considered normal for people to accidentally bump you as they passed. At least once, one of the managers brushed passed, touching my bottom in the process. At the time I was convinced it was simply an accident, the manager was nice also and it could have been so I didn’t think much of it.
Then sometime later at a work outing, a small group of girls opened up about how common it was for them to experience inappropriate touching when this same manager passed by, the topic then quickly shifted to the deputy manager of the store who would be constantly begging a female worker for sex. I was shocked upon hearing of this and the reprise of such ‘accidental incident’ played in my mind… The reality that it wasn’t an accident makes it suddenly a big deal.
Yet it amazes me how the topic was portrayed so lightly and non-serious with this group of girls, how quick the topic could be changed and how it was made to appear as common knowledge. It was something they had learned to accept/prevent to occur again. I’m shocked at how I/(we) did nothing. I didn’t even consider what I should have done. I didn’t tell anyone. I mean what evidence did I have? I knew these could easily (as I initially did) be marked off as an accidental occurrence. I contrasted this with a genuine accident with another supervisor (he was definitely gay) who did accidentally bump my ass. He instantly apologised, yet I remember thinking how odd it was to apologise for something that often/easily could occur in the busy space we were always actively moving around in.
I worry that people think that I am over-reacting and this story is “nothing” compared to what other women face. I agree there is worse that has happened to others but that doesn’t discount what happened in my former workplace with people of authority that clearly knew they could get away with it. The fact that as young women we also had no clue or power beside literally cover our asses is shockingly horrifying. I hope this still doesn’t happen and there are measures in place, people to talk to so these awful people are not left running such toxic environment.
There are other stories I need to share but somehow this post seems long enough, so its definitely something to be continued. I encourage you to all share your own experiences. If you would like to do so privately you can send me an email.